Teaching HTML in middle school

We’re kicking it old-skool! OK, sorry for the lame attempt to be hip. But a blog post by Tess Rinearson about teaching computer science in middle school recommended teaching HTML the Old Way. We’re talking Notepad, folks.

I was happy to read this, because that’s exactly what I’m doing right now with my Digital Multimedia class, which is one of our offerings in our arts block.  The current unit is an introduction to web design. Yes, I realize there are many WYSIWYG tools out there that will enable anyone to create a spiffy web page without knowing a single HTML tag. Dreamweaver is awesome, and we’re going to use it after we learn some HTML, some CSS, and a dollop of Javascript. But my question is always, “What happens when the design you want doesn’t work or won’t display the way you want it to?” Dragging and dropping can only get you so far, and in fact, can compound the original problem by generating more HTML code and further fouling up the works.

Knowing how to get “under the hood” is a necessary skill, and even an elementary knowledge of HTML can help the troubleshooting process. Plus, and this is the part I love, it gives the students a measure of control over the technology they are using. And it can be an important gateway experience for further computer science study. From a gender perspective, about half the class is female. So I hope that I am helping them have a positive experience with coding that will carry on later. It’s a win-win.

Questions I asked my class:

What’s the coolest thing about learning HTML?

“Links and fonts.” — Clark

“The links.” — Greg

“You can put virtually anything you want on a website with the coding, and how it all works together.” — David

“The image with the link. That you can use an image to be a link you click on.” — Chandler

“You can pretty much do everything you see on a normal website with HTML.” — Danny

What’s the hardest thing so far?

“That you have to have all the tags, the closing tags, everything right.” — Sam

“If you make a mistake, you don’t know till you save it. Then you have to go through all the code and find it.” — Mali

What did you learn about the internet that you never knew before learning this?

“You look at all these websites, and you realize that there’s all this coding behind it for them to work.” — Victoria

“You look at a website and it looks all different and pretty, and then you see the code and what makes it look like that.” — Chandler

“I learned that it’s pretty simple, and really anybody can do it.” — Drew

“A lot of websites use code that they get from other websites, but there has to be one that did it first.” — Ethan

 

html code

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